Skip to comments.The Earliest Known Abecedary
Posted on 10/24/2015 5:58:22 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
A flake of limestone (ostracon) inscribed with an ancient Egyptian word list of the fifteenth century BC turns out to be the world's oldest known abecedary. The words have been arranged according to their initial sounds, and the order followed here is one that is still known today. This discovery by Ben Haring (Leiden University) with funding from Free Competition Humanities has been published in the October issue of the 'Journal of Near Eastern Studies'.
The order is not the ABC of modern western alphabets, but Halaham (HLHM), the order known from the Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Arabian and Classical Ethiopian scripts. ABC and HLHM were both used in Syria in the thirteenth century BC: cuneiform tablets found at site of ancient Ugarit show both sequences. Back then, ABC was still '-b-g ('aleph-beth-gimel). This sequence was favored by the Phoenicians who passed it on to the Greeks, together with the alphabet itself. Thus a-b-g found its way to the later alphabets inspired by the Greek and Latin ones.
The ostracon was found over twenty years ago by the British Egyptologist Nigel Strudwick in an Ancient Egyptian tomb near Luxor. The text has never been understood, however, until it was deciphered by Ben Haring, a Dutch Egyptologist working at Leiden University. Haring made his discovery in the context of a research project on Ancient Egyptian identity marks funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).
The text is an incomplete list of words written in hieratic, the cursive script used in Ancient Egypt for some 3,000 years. To the left is a column of individual signs that appear to be abbreviations of the words. Very possibly they even render the initial consonants of the words, which would make them alphabetic signs.
(Excerpt) Read more at nwo.nl ...
This ancient Egyptian word list of the fifteenth century BC is the earliest known example of a list arranged according to their initial sounds. It gives a vital insight into the earliest known stages of the alphabet. (Credits: Nigel Strudwick)
Way cool! History of writing is one of my favorite subjects.
One of *those* topics -- 1300BC in the conventional pseudochronology is circa 600BC.
This one, or the Plague topic, will make a good weekly Digest ping.
I love studies like this.
As an accountant, I was fascinated to learn about the ancient Sumerian public-works payroll tablets, and then that they deciphered Linear A only to find “Ten bolts of cloth, twenty spools of thread.” “Fifty amphorae of wine, twelve of oil,” and stuff like that.
Well duh! There isn’t much written history before that...
It’s all rather circular, I guess ...
It can be difficult to talk about the past without using the word “history,” even though (I was taught) there is no history without writing.
So they basically deciphered a shopping list?
An inventory, more likely. “Go make a list of what’s in the storeroom ...”
>>> Back then, ABC was still ‘-b-g (’aleph-beth-gimel). This sequence was favored by the Phoenicians who passed it on to the Greeks, together with the alphabet itself. Thus a-b-g found its way to the later alphabets inspired by the Greek and Latin ones. <<<
The Hebrew alphabet begins with aleph-beth-gimel.
I wonder why that isn’t mentioned?
It’s not mentioned because Hebrew and Phoenician (Canaanite) are the same language, more or less (although the letter forms now used for Hebrew were adopted later from Aramaic).
Gee, I wonder. /s It’s not unlikely that the Phoenicians got it from the Hebrews, who derived it from Egyptian writing.
Linear B, but yeah — inventories of offerings and larder.
Right, that one.
The desire to collect taxes correctly and fully probably drove more innovation than we want to admit, from writing and math for accounting to social structures and laws to enforce it.
So jokes about death and taxes being inevitable are probably as old as the dead parrot/slave being sold joke.
Bards are for history but for serious things like money only writing suffices.
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